Archive for the ‘Music nobody listens to’ Category

Well, this has laid here barely twitching for about long enough, don’t you think?

Do not, however, think I am suddenly going to go all foul mouthed and rant-fueled.  I am somewhere else right now, and it probably has to do with my SECOND near miss involving my traitorous heart.

But I am currently on my third watch-through of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and enjoying it as much as the first time, if not more.

It is a period piece from the 50s, about a woman who spent her entire life working toward the expectations of the time:  college for an MRS degree, jobs from the parents, kids, and apartments in the best parts of Manhattan.  BUT; her husband, having a stupid hobby of doing comedy in basement clubs, leaves her because she is funnier than he is (he relies on stealing from Bob Newhart records).

The night he leaves, she gets drunk and takes the train (for the first time) downtown to the grungy basement club and stumbles onto stage, where she free associates her frustrations and anger about being left, and then exposed her tits. Resulting in arrest, and which she managed to get bailed out at the same time as Lenny Bruce.

She doesn’t remember the thing about the boobs, but the scene where she completely misunderstands the legal process of courts is fucking adorable.

And during a terribly awry family get-together, she drinks up and then goes to the club, and the bartender says “here we go” for another great free-association rant.  And she is AMAZING at quashing anyone who tries to interrupt her or heckle/.

From there, it gets better, trust me. it is awash in period details,  and it is admittedly kind of a fantasy in the way it shows women at a time they were hardly allowed any agency outside of shopping for groceries.

So it’s kind of a fantasy.  But it has the rapid fire attitude of old school farces like Bringing Up Baby, but with an attitude and language that is contemporary.

And it visits the ideas of free speech and women’s rights in a way that is clever and humorous. AND it includes a cameo from Jane Jacobs, which very nearly dropped me to the floor laughing, because I realized I was one of the few that recognized her….

In any case, it is so well done, and so fucking funny and so fucking intense, I watched it once by myself, once with my wife, and once more by myself after I listened to the star, Rachel Brosnahan, on Marc Maron’s podcast.

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Went to see some bands tonight, Something to Do and The english Beat.  S2D had a new single to play, dedicated it quit appropriately to the ladies;

We’ve been huge fans of these guys for years, and they are criminally un-appreciated.  But opening for the Beat must have been a thrill.

With regards to the show, I am gonna resurrect a post from the old blooger bloggo from the time I saw them – at a very lowish time  for me.

Searching For A Former Clarity
Mirror in the bathroom
Recompense
For all my crimes
of self defense.
Cures you whisper
make no sense
trajectory into
mental illness.

Sometimes you can recognize meaningful change through small details.
My office is downtown, located shouting distance from several entertainment venues including the huge Bradley Center and more intimate places like the PAC and Turner Hall. So it’s not unusual to see touring buses and trucks driving around or parking.
Sunday was a work day, as was Saturday. By midafternoon, while taking a short break to just gaze out the window, I watched a pair of generic touring buses pull into designated spaces alongside the street. In ones and twos, the occupants stepped off, stretching and looking around, and then each one of them did the same thing: pulled out their cell phone to take advantage of the signal and call – friends, family, some kind of home base. Modern technology has helped to soften the disorientation of touring, letting the crew and artists maintain connections and some level of sanity.
In this case, it was
The English Beat and their techs, here to play Turner and we were going to see them later that night. I turned back to the desk; I had to finish what I had in front of me in order to make the show on time.
buy a beach before next summer?
how do you feel in the morning?
if the light’s an awful bother
i could always close the curtains.
just close your eyes and count to ten
see if you still remember when
your life seemed easy, you had friends
but that was different than that was then
you’re drowning, you’re drowning

In 1980 I made my first presidential vote against a candidate, and then watched dumbfounded as America elected a suit that went on to stumble and lie his way through 8 years of deceit and corporate malfeasance. Against this backdrop, punk music was going through a mainstreaming into New Wave, wrapping the energy into a more commercial package; but the music industry had nearly dozed into irrelevance, and the DIY aesthetic released a restless generation of kids, seemingly thousands of new bands exploding into clubs and bars every month.
The English Beat rode this wave, but had a bit different agenda. Wrapping a positivist and multi racial message in propulsive danceable songs built on Jamaican ska and accelerated into a new decade, they were lumped in with the ‘Two-Tone” movement. Their first album was a relentless ska dance party, and many of my friends played it incessantly; but my real introduction was Special Beat Service, their third album, a much more pop-oriented album that Also served as their swan song. They disintegrated into
Fine Young Cannibals and General Public.
No it’s not a joke it’s cards on the table time
Yes I could have phoned
I could have spoke
But how to break the news without beaking your heart
Being dead don’t hurt,
No only dieing
Cards on the table time,
Sometimes it’s right to say goodnight.

But the band wore their hearts on their sleeve, and the combination of Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling on vocals, as well as the multiracial makeup of the band and their fans demonstrated that tolerance and unity not only worked, but you could dance to it.
The warmongering of the Right was decried in their actions and lyrics, one of the few New Wave bands that maintained the political outspokenness of the punk bands, without apology.
you tell me how can it work in this all white law
want a short sharp lesson,
want a third world war
i sometimes wonder if i’ll ever get the chance
just to sit with my children in a holiday jam
our lives seem petty in your gold grey hands
would you give a second thought
would you ever give a damn, i doubt it
stand down Margaret

we played that 3rd album nearly nonstop. During the early days of MTV, “Save It For Later” was a (short-lived) staple and we danced to the TV like kids in earlier days had danced to American Bandstand. Inevitably on Mondays, as we cleaned up the debris from the weekend, shelving one or two Beat albums was part of the process.
They never made it to Milwaukee, although Wisconsin appeared in their lyrics. Local bands covered Beat songs, and we made do.
And, as inevitably happens, we all got older….and lives shifted, as they will.
buy a beach before next summer?
how do you feel in the morning?
if the light’s an awful bother
i could always close the curtains.
just close your eyes and count to ten
see if you still remember when
your life seemed easy, you had friends
but that was different than that was then
you’re drowning, you’re drowning

I guess a few people noticed that I’ve been kind of AWOL of late, closing the old bloggo and generally making myself scarce. [Incidentally, I’d like to extend thanks to the folks who chased me down anyways. It’s weird, and a bit moving, to have someone you’ve never met express concern.]
One morning I looked at the New Post button, and realized I just didn’t have the energy, inclination, or temperament to throw anything out there; moreover, I dreaded the commenting if I just left a post without anything for some time. Commenting anywhere, in fact, seemed like more than a chore; with the prevailing mood, the likelihood of saying something appalling seemed like a near-certainty. In the end, I had no tolerance or patience, and the Internet is not kind to those without tolerance or patience.

So I pulled the plug and tried to concentrate on MeatSpace.

Strength is not the same as anger
Put the taste back into hunger
Searching the box?,
looking for what?
Pushing the gear back into top?
Put the first back into class
Lose your bottle break the glass
You’ll wind up high and dry with just this slow cold comfort.
For several weeks now, the Real World has been coming down like rain; like shit from an incontinent Moose (doncha love my Way with Words?). Professional life has rubbed me raw; old clients have refused to pay, new clients have refused to agree to reasonable fees and existing clients have been demanding full time attention far in excess of contractual and reasonable standards.
Rotating head, keeps on the right side
Colied up and tense remains on the lookout
Expects to be shot or get given the bullet.
Rotating head tries to look on the bright side of things.
For a normal business owner, or even at normal times, a bit of extra work doesn’t come as a surprise and can even be energizing. But the demands in construction season are critical and time intensive; construction schedules hinge upon the work and millions of dollars hang in the balance. Simple mistakes cost tens of thousands of dollars and Owners demand that culpability be assessed and compensated; one particular recent project is costing me a minimum of five figures, and that’s just my liability deductible. Larger firms carry errors and Omissions insurance in hundreds of million-dollar amounts, and one of the bigger firms in town may have $1,000,000 in claims in a given year.
Against this backdrop, we try to run a business, make a living, and maybe – just once in a while- achieve …. well, maybe not Art, but aesthetic satisfaction? Too much to ask?


Sugar ‘n’ stress,
Do everything at least twice
Catch your fingers in your private vices
Sugar ‘n’ stress
With a heart like ice
Hope heaven comes in a number of sizes.
In the middle of this, a Construction Inspector decides that I’m incompetent, and immediately sets out to disrupt my projects to the greatest extent possible to prove that I’ve screwed something up. Clients have no way of discerning whether his allegations have any validity, and meanwhile construction schedules are disrupted by Mr. Bureaucracy; everyone’s looking at me to resolve this and get things back on schedule, without affecting the budget, while my new friend smirks.
When two swords slashing at each other
Only sharpen one another
And in the long run even he’s your brudda’
Even though that kid’s a nazi

Of course, the internal flow of my office is further disrupted by the demands on my time. As we try to complete projects on time and keep the cash flow alive, I have little or no time to direct my younger associates or check their work. Inferior or inaccurate work is released into the real world, with predictable results; further confusion and errors in construction, needing more and more effort on my part ot keep things righted. It’s all supremely frustrating, and of course it bleeds over into the personal life; I had no time for family, friends, or exercising.
And perhaps inevitably, it seemed like I was losing my ability to cope.
one in thirty five is saying sorry through a bottle
say it’s your job to scrape a living up, that’s all it does
well think it back over it, hurts twice as much as living
itchy finger, finger, trigger, trigger
faster faster faster faster

I couldn’t even bring myself to care much about politics, during one of the most intriguing elections I’ve ever seen, and one of the most crucial. Not to mention one of the few that it seemed the Democrats couldn’t screw up.
Just like in the 80’s, we have been living through a greedy, self-centered Administration that is hostile to anybody without a lobbyist or a trust fund. The only foreign policy we seem to have is one of submission to American Empire, and the tragedy of September 11th distressingly gave the political powers the strength and support to force many of their priorities into reality. Wealthy Americans and corporations reaped profits and tax breaks unseen since the advent of the twentieth century, while the economy was starved and wages stagnated.


These thought are so unfair
“If somethings there then it’s worth taking.”
We know where our hearts are-right behind our wallets,
Yes and that’s where they’re staying
Grow up together but we grow apart
Always climbing up is our downfall.
A change of blood or a change of heart?
Another change of address will do no good.
Neo-conservative idealogues destabilized the Middle East through fear-mongering and deceit. Ronald Reagan was deified, and the new Presidnet lied to an extent that was inconceivable twenty years previously. Dissent was demonized as treason, as were liberals. Political dialogue narrowed and veered sharply rightward; torture became codified and sanctioned as offical American policy, while widespread surveillance of Americans got authorized at the highest levels in admitted violation of American laws in place since Watergate.
Hatred and bigotry are enshrined permanently into Republican policy, more explicit than anytime during my life.  The Southern Strategy writ large and driving nearly everything they do.  Fear of others – different races, gays, Muslims-  is the wedge they use to divide America into segments that they can dominate, while religious intolerance becomes the norm.  Civil rights are becoming eroded, while autocratic powermongers dice and degrade the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.
our correspondent made to wait in the lobby
torn to pieces by three have a go bobbies
young swimmers in these sun dialling times
sweeping the nation with a dance called the breadline
it’s in our water, and our education
we are oppressed into association
cheated cheated
it’s a joke, but it’s not that funny
cheated cheated
change the truth until it’s worth
money
All of it has seemed like it didn’t even matter to me anymore. The abandonment of my practice appeared a reasonable response, even as the construction industry lurched into one of the worst years in decades and subseqent employment seemed like a long shot, attractive as it would be to just cash a paycheck again.
there’s a training camp when
you come from from saving nations
get a new job and a new leg
social rehabilitation
every time you thing of leaving
you get caught between the lines
it’s the training for the funfair
you get taken for a ride
you!
just get-a-job, get-a-job

Finally though, we made it to Turner Hall that Sunday night. Several friends were due to show up to, and I confess that I was pretty eager to see some friendly faces.

Naturally, most of them didn’t show.
Sooner or later your legs give way, you hit the ground
Save it for later, don’t run away and let me down.
Sooner or later you’ll hit the deck you’ll get found out
Save it for later don’t runaway and let me down, you let me down.

The Beat opened with a measured version of Whine and Grine/Stand Down Margaret, one of the classics from their debut. Dave Wakeling is the Sole Surviving member of the band and it was quickly apparent that the new (still multi-racial, of course) band was smoother and more skilled than the Beat was during their active years, adding a layer of American soul to the ska underpinnings. I sipped my beer, and looked forward to hearing some new twists on some old songs.
Until, that is, they played their second song.
So cross your fingers say you’re on high
Pretend you’re in den and see what life brings.
But always taking things as they come
Tends to make you forget to put anything in.
The longer you dwell the more it’s like hell
You sit by the well just making a wish.
To make it plain I’ll say it again
We’re all the same
It’s only a game.
With no interval between songs, they launched into “I Confess” the opening song from that album we loved so much. No new twists on this one, the piano charged directly into a straight-up version.
And much to my surprise, I discovered myself tearing up. Okay, hell, not tearing up; call it weeping.
the little you can expect to get
to get from anyone else
makes you look after number one
the only helping hand
you’ll ever be offered
is the one at the end of your own arm
draw in like a breath
it goes tight like a wire
you’re trying to shout
but your lungs are on fire
The memories of the feelings from all those years ago kept running through my mind. Every next song brought back the feelings of youth; idealism, energy. I remembered those years of dawning political awareness and maturing emotional outlook; I recalled the vibrancy of everyday life when another new day was a gift and nothing stopped us from reaching out to each other.
What then?
Do it right, do it now!
Here there, everywhere
Shouting out “I’m mad as hell”
He pushes his legs against the bed
And feels the triumph flooding through his head
He could conquer,
He could win,
Now that dying only means you’re not in next week’s programme
Stop being a baby
I would have expected a much noisier show to be responsible for….well, readjusting some internal relief valves, I guess. By the end of the night, we were dancing to the English Beat again, and the band was as good as anyone could have asked. Going to sleep that night, tired and sweaty and a mild ringing in the ears as “Save It For Later” played me to sleep on the iPod, I felt…. like I had some measure of control, again.
The next morning promised to be just as difficult as any preceding. But it seemed at least manageable, somehow.

And…. the past still keeps bumping into my consciousness. The potential of young years, and thinking there may have been something I missed.
I know I’m being overly dramatic here, and it can probably be dismissed as the onset of mid-life crisis; but when it’s quiet, I wonder if, all those years ago, I made the best decision when I sold my guitar to make my tuition payment.
Someone just smiled for no special reason,
It looks liken the smile’s come back into season
It’s so easy.
It doesn’t have to be a nice day,
Just the only one you’ve got
And it’s coming ready or not!

It’s very affecting to read those words from nearly a decade ago.  Although I can be grateful that things have changed since then, this post makes it so, so easy to re-live those feelings, that desperation.  And in some ways, the hands have just gone around again:  like the 80s, we watched a debacle of an election install a goon, a child, supported by idiots, fascists and staffed with greed heads and warmongers; while the meager economic improvements managed by That Black Man are being rolled back and a new massive recession is engineered; we watch actual Nazis marching in our country and being supported by political actors; while the rightwing insists that pedophiles and criminals should be elevated to high office, and immigrants of good will and good hearts are criminalized and sent back to war zones.

And against the horror and tragedy of that backdrop, these bands blew the shit out of Turner Hall, again Commanding us To Dance, and that the new dance, the Tolerance, can be our Soul Salvation.  And regardless of the foregoing, we see a continuing expansion of acceptance of gender and orientation diversity, a remarkable surge in women Not Taking This Shit From Anyone, anymore, and running for office.  Against this, the retrograde right wing and fascist whites are kicking, but like a chicken fresh from the chopping block, they are merely not recognizing that their time is done.  Yes, they are able to spray blood around before they lie quietly, and we have to be on our guard for fuckery at any level.  But they know; they know.  Even after managing to use every last ounce of influence to take over the government, they can’t get anything done, and they realize, it deep down.  It’s why they keep buying guns, shooting up schools, listening to Alex Jones and shooting themselves in rockets to prove that the Earth  is flat.

Yes, BBBB, I am bleeding music yet again.  Still.  Yet.  I am still not dead, and I’v been as close as dammit.  But this is the music I like, and it still speaks to me, even if it qualifies for oldies status.  And so:

And it did, too.  The Fainting Room (which included a Whiskeybelle) started a little past 8 PM.

Continuing the Milwaukee Music Summer, tonight was an album release party for the Wooldridge Brothers at local java joint Anodyne Coffee Roasters.

I have been a fan of these fellas since they moved their entire band from Indiana to Milwaukee to be part of the thriving music scene here in 1984, and they were called the Squares.  Of course, that scene fell apart, as did their band (although members of that band are still making music here) and Scott moved to Minneapolis.  But the brothers continued to work together, landing songs on TV shows and films, releasing fine albums.

A couple of years ago, they launched a Kickstarter project (since there’s no music industry anymore) to release two albums; a solo Scott Wooldridge album, and a Wooldridge Brothers band album.  I , of course, supported their efforts, and my support resulted in a producer credit in the liner notes, which is kind of exciting.

Scott’s solo album came out a while ago, and it is fine, in the same vein as their previous records, and it yielded this excellent song:

But they decided to take the band album in a bit different direction.  They took their time and pushed the production levels up, as well as bringing Brian Wooldridge’s guitar solos well forward in the mix, providing an energy and attack that had not been there before.  In addition, their influences -Elvis Costello, Squeeze, the Kinks- are laid more bare than usual.  The result is, frankly, quite startling.

One of the things they did when they realized their schedule was slipping, was create a video for one of the songs, a bittersweet song called “Drive Through Summer” which they recorded in a drive-in theater.  After they filmed it, they realized that the drive-through would provide, if not a concept album, a tone and feeling throughout the album; so they named it Starts At Dusk.  What an evocative name….

We chatted with the Brothers briefly before the show, talking about the new album, other Milwaukee musicians, the show in Minneapolis, and summer family vacation plans.  I had received the album a week prior, as I was a Kickstarter Producer (along with a couple of rare discs of covers and demos) and it was already making quite a mark on me.  Particular standouts are “Waiting It Out” (excellent guitar work by Brian) and “Zero Information” ( think Graham Parker).  It is not to be released online until September; until then it is SOLELY available at Milwaukee Anodyne coffee shops, because there are no record stores anymore.

The show was simply amazing, we were sitting right up front.

20525873_10209845438672940_467305875466613922_n

That is actually the Wooldridge Brothers and a Sister-in-Law.  They played almost all the new album too, and we loved it.  It was maybe too short; a tight 90 minutes or so.

Other than the record release, they are mostly relieved to have a project finished and will be focusing on other things for a while, so this may be a rare appearance -although if you live in Minneapolis, Scott plays out relatively often.  In an interview, they said that they hope to be more active in 2018, but until then, there is this absolutely outstanding new album to enjoy.

Up next:  Rancid, Dropkick Murphys, Bouncing Souls and a guy from Stiff Little Fingers.  IN this place:

IMG_0404

This may not be a huge urban enclave, but MAN we have a great music scene.  Yes, yes Big Bastard, if you cut me, do I not bleed music?

It’s a Holiday Tradition at the Empire!  The Piano Story.  And, since the country started holiday drinking early, we have a new Un-President who is eager to get that nuculer war under way, so here’s a jolly little ditty:

In a more generous and Christmas-ey note, Milwaukee musician and Empire fave Trapper Schoepp got his piano this year.

Merry XMess

THE FIRST LAUGH
Recently, someone pointed me towards an online humor carnival. I didn’t throw anything into it, but it made me think about funny moments.

And one of the funniest moments I’ve ever seen personally was such a minor slapsticky moment, it didn’t seem worth it. It was a time when my girlfriend at the time walked full into a glass door. Did you ever see a Star Trek Blooper where Shatner charges into one of those Enterprise doors, expecting the stage hands to pull them aside in time for him to lunge through, and they don’t? Shatner makes a thwock sound and bounces back five or six feet. This was exactly like that except funnier, and I fell over laughing helplessly.

Well, for some reason that girlfriend didn’t immediately drop me as an inconsiderate buffoon; several years later after getting married, graduating, getting a job and finding a real apartment, it was a good time to show how much she meant to me; it was time to find The Perfect Christmas Gift.

THE SET-UP
My wife constantly lamented her family’s inability to afford a piano as a child. As a good husband, one only has to mention something 3 or 4 hundred times before I clue into it, so I struck upon the inspired idea of giving her a piano for Christmas. A Piano!

….uuhhh, how does one go about procuring a piano?

Let’s start with the Yellow Pages! (pre-internet, kidsos, keep up here.) Ahh. A place right downtown called the Piano Gallery. Good place to start. Could I BE a bigger idiot? It was a friggin’ GALLERY. With Pianos, beautiful, gorgeous pianos of spectacular finish and epic, gorgeous tone; pianos that could make you weep. Both kinds: Grand and Baby Grand. Reconditioned, starting at eight thousand dollars. Whoops! Maybe this idea won’t be going anywhere after all. Let’s look at calendars.

Well, after puttering around a couple of mall-style stores that seemed to specialize in automated piano-like organs with automatic beats aimed at little old ladies to jazz up rhumba night at the retirement home, I resorted to the For Sale ads. (These are like an analog version of Craig’s List for you kidsos. newspapers used to have them. Ask your grandfather what a newspaper was.) Finally I found an upright for sale right in the sweet spot of my price range. Oddly enough, when I came to look at it, the address was…a waterbed store? Weirder and weirder. I went in and asked for Mark, who was apparently the manager.

He took me back to the loading dock, and I asked… “Why are you selling it ? And… why in a waterbed store?” Mark replied that he had moved to town recently, their condo did not have room, and so it had to go.

The piano was an upright made in Chicago by Camp & Company around 1914; the wood had warm golden finish that was soft and deep. There were some carved and applied wood details, that were more of a crude craftsman style; they imparted an unassuming , almost home built character. The ivory on the keys was yellowed, but smooth, evidence of its age and the thousands of fingers that had played it. As an architect, I am always sensitive to the way built items age and acquire historic patina; the instrument appealed to me on an aesthetic level.

He asked me if I wanted to play it, and I replied that it would be a gift for my wife, that I didn’t really know how to play and knew little of pianos. So he sat on the railing of the loading dock and pounded out some boogie-woogie, and a little christmas music. Although the instrument was maybe a bit out of tune, it had a lively, ebullient sound. (Later I found that through dumb luck, we had acquired an instrument that was well built with a nearly-intact soundboard and a serviceable action). It was obvious that he loved the instrument, it sounded passable to my tin ears, and I said it was a deal.

THE ROUND-UP
Now here’s where things get intricate, and I maybe tried to be too tricksy. I wanted to deliver it on Christmas eve, which was a Saturday this year. Mark said he would be able to work with that on two conditions: First, it would have to be in the morning, because he would have to open the store to get it; and second, that I pay him in cash, because he and his family were leaving for a Holiday trip that day. This seemed workable to me; how vainly optimistic one can be!

I arranged for a couple of friends, Mike, Rory and Jack to help me out, and spent several days congratulating myself on achieving the Perfect Gift. I was just counting chickens, friends and guinea pigs, when the eggs were alligator.

THE HOOK
Saturday Morning, Christmas Eve. My wife got up and needed to do some last minute shopping; how perfect! I could barely keep from laughing and telling all in glee as I kissed her goodbye. My helpers were due to be here by 10 AM, so I had to get to U-Haul to get a truck. I have no compunction about mentioning the company here; you will soon see why.

The U-Haul store was a bit busy, but they had assured me they had a truck when I called. They certainly did: a nineteen foot delivery truck. NINETEEN feet. For a single piano. Of course, the advertised $19.95 rate was not available for this truck. The small truck with the $19.95 banner parked right next to this one? Not serviced; not available. Oh well, small concern, considering the cost of the gift. Gimme the keys. Took the truck home, to wait for my helpers.

9:30.

10:00

10:30

10:45. By now, i started calling them. Rory? no answer. Jack? No Answer. Mike? Finally an answer! Hoarsely, “I don’t think I’m gonna be able to make it….” Rory? Still no answer. Jack calls back. Jack! He wasn’t going to be able to make it either, unless we could be sure he’d be done by 2 PM. Oh, no problem! Come on over! Okay, fine, after you’ve had some coffee. I didn’t tell you to go drinking last night.

So, Jack and I -just half of the movers I had anticipated as necessary – finally got back into the truck by about quarter after eleven, and got on the road.

THE TALE
Hah. Fooled you. It wasn’t that easy, of course. The truck wouldn’t start. Not a dead battery; it was a gap in the flywheel. For you non-gearheads, this meant that the starter would just spin away without turning the engine at all. I looked at Jack; he looked at me. Ummm. After fooling around for ten minutes, Jack had a brainstorm – he disengaged the gear shift, which moved the flywheel – just enough – that the starter caught and the engine started.    Wooo! Here we go. Down the highway, back behind the waterbed store and back up to the loading dock, killing the truck and running in to meet Mark, who was very impatient by now.

Now go back and read that last sentence again, and see if you can catch our mistake. Let the adventure begin.

I went in and paid Mark, and while Jack and I were securing the piano, Mark closed the door and hit the road. Jack and I laughed to see the piano – just an upright – sitting in that cavernous truck, roped to the side.  We could have fit a whole CAR in there and never touched the piano.

Back to the cab, ready to go. As you may have guessed, the starter was whiffing again. We tried the gearshift trick, but this time were not so lucky, it didn’t help. The truck was in a loading dock depression, so we couldn’t push it . Now Jack and I looked at each other and had little in the way of ideas. You know, keep in mind that at this time cell phones were bigger than bricks and cost thousands of dollars.

Settle in now, this is getting interesting.

Hey, there’s a phone by the gas station across the street. (station closed, of course). But who to call? I can’t call my wife, besides the awful giveaway, she’s not home. Try calling U-Haul? They’re no longer open. Isn’t there an emergency number? If I ran U-Haul, it would be plastered all over the inside of the cab. After half an hour of searching, we finally find it, in the small print of the Operations Manual. So I give it a call.

And get an operator. In Arizona. Who wonders whether it’s cold in Wisconsin. Ha-ha, yes, and we’ve got snow. And I’m standing outside in an open phone booth, trying to get help for the broken-ass truck that I rented from a Local U-hauler. Ha-ha, yes it’s not a good day for it, is it? Enough with the levity, let’s start discussing how you’re going to help me. You what? You need to call the local 24 hour service, who will get back to me? Fuck me sideways with a christmas tree, did I mention I am standing outside an open phone booth? By a highway? Oh, yes, please do try and get him to call as quickly as possible.

I run back to the truck to tell Jack that I got somebody, but now I need to wait for a return call.

And run back across the road to wait. It starts to snow.

UNDER-SERVED
While I’m waiting, Jack comes over to give his sister a call. It is now after 1 PM, and he’s got to get on the road somehow. After he calls, we notice a bar across the highway that appears to be open. Hey, just the thing! A nice hot drink, some brandy certainly, maybe a snack… we can call Arizona Lady back and give her the bar’s number. This works! We dodge the traffic to get across and tumble through the door, savoring the warmth and the welcoming smells of a tavern … aaaaahhhh.

“Hey, gents! Can we do something quick for ya? We’re closing down.”

Gaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh…… A quick explanation, and no, we can’t hang around even if they’re closed, whattaya, nuts? Gotta get home to the family!! So – it’s back to the phone booth. And the snow.

BYPASS ON THE BYPASS
Now, this is the place where the Universe looks down and… decides to fuck with me. I mean more. As I stand and wait for someone, somewhere to dial this phone on an icy intersection in the deepening wintery gloom, there’s little to do but watch the cars go by. Lights change, cars go one way; the lights change again and they go the other. A fair amount of last minute shopping traffic, actually. The phone is close enough to the street to be able to see drivers clearly. Once in a while, one looks over at me; maybe one out of four looks at me in puzzlement, obviously wondering what in hell is possessing me to stand there. But most of them are just driving past, much more intent on finishing their shopping and getting the hell home. And as I am watching the cars, I see one at the next light that looks an awful lot like ours. At the time, we had a last-year-model Fiero, you see, and there were not that many of them on the streets. Kind of unusual. This one matched ours. I couldn’t make out the license plate, though, and as it swept around the corner, of course I saw quite clearly: my wife. In our Fiero. Driving blithely right past me. Stranded at an abandoned gas station, with her gift stranded in a truck across the street.

The impulse to try and wave her down came, but the car was gone before any frozen limbs could be cracked into action. She was one of the drivers who paid no attention, of course. If someone had driven by with an open window at that moment, they might have been able to hear a few cracked, desperate laughs through the wind and snow.

OVER THE WIRE
After some indefinable amount of time passed, the phone rang. It was Arizona Lady.

Well, things were going great down in Arizona. She had located the service company up in Milwaukee, and left a message for their driver….

“Hold on. Left a message?”

“Yes sir.”

“Your truck has left me stranded by a highway in the Wisconsin winter, and you left a message?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I know it may not seem terribly urgent down there in Arizona, but did it ever occur to you that I am sitting here with a defunct piece of shit truck, freezing while I’m waiting for help, and that maybe it could use a bit more effort than leaving a message?”

“Sir, I have done what I can. Why don’t you run the truck heater?”

“IF I COULD START THE TRUCK TO RUN THE HEATER, WE WOULDN’T BE HAVING THIS CONVERSATION.”

“I AM sorry sir.”

“…yea, me too. Just….do what you can, OK? It’s not Arizona up here.”

The tow truck driver would be calling me at the pay phone number after he checked his messages; he would let me know when he was ready to come and get me. Thankfully and against all expectation, the driver called me within a few minutes, and after getting the location, let me know that it would likely be about 45 minutes, because he had another job to take care of first. Busy season, ya know. I agreed; next time I would plan my breakdown emergency better and schedule ahead.

Jack’s sister showed up soon with their car packed for their own holiday trip, full of clothes, gifts, and their two large dogs. Although cramped, we all piled into the front seat grateful for the warmth; the truck cab had gotten down to air temperature by now and we were chilled. Jack, his sister and I shared passed around…. well a little bit of holiday cheer, I guess you could call it; by the time they left for their own holiday gathering, most of my despair had been blunted, for a short time at least. It was three PM, and the sky was leaden gray, although the snow had mostly stopped.

I walked across the road once again to use that cursed open phone to call home and leave a message.

“Hi, it’s me. I….well, I’m having quite a day. I will probably be home in an hour or two. Nothing’s wrong, really; I’m OK. It’s just….well, I’ll explain when I get home. Don’t worry.”

Then, I settled into the cab alone to try and stay warm and wait for the tow driver, hoping this wouldn’t be too long.

THE HOOK-UP
I was a little surprised when I saw the tow truck pull into the parking lot. I had forgotten that U-Haul had given me the 19 footer. The tow truck was a 6 wheel monstrosity with dual booms, as large as a semi truck cab. It was about 4:30, and it had gotten fully dark by now. I stepped out and Chris introduced himself. He asked me what was wrong with the truck, and then spent some time looking it over. After a few minutes, I asked if I could sit in the cab of the tow, because I had been out here in the cold for hours.

“Oh, sure! Go ahead! Why didn’t you run the heater?”

Grrmmph.

THE SHOVE-OFF
Chris came back and said that the truck was in pretty bad shape. No news to me, of course, but I was just thankful to be warming up. Now, he started to explain to me that he was on a 24 hour call cycle from the Milwaukee Police department, and that all weekend he would be on call to clear accident sites for them. I was concentrating on getting warm, and didn’t really register what he was saying, until something like this came out:

“…so I would have to leave you and your truck and take care of it…”

“…wait, what?”

“Well, if the police call with a tow request, I’ll have to dump you and your truck and take care of their needs first. I just want to be clear about that before I start towing you.”

“Um. What’s the alternative?”

“I could try calling one of the other towing services for you, but I don’t know anybody else on call this weekend. It’s a holiday, you know.”

“I’ve been made aware. I’m gonna take the chance. Just one thing; if you get another call, can I ride with you, rather than sitting in that broken-ass truck?”

“Well…I’m not supposed to. But maybe…. OK, but just stay in the truck when we do, OK?”

“Fine. Great. Let’s go.”

So Chris turned up the heater for me, and went back to disconnect the drive shaft and get the truck hoisted. He came back into the tow cab to fill out some paperwork, and then he got back out to check the connections.  And then he put the hoist back down, because guess what? Yes, he got a call from the MPD. And off we went to an accident site.

HOOKED
It was a pretty minor fender bender, all things considered, right outside of a gas station. I sat in the cab and watch Chris and the cops work, and looked into the convenience store to see a clerk waiting on people for gas, beer, and cigarettes. When Chris got back in, he mentioned that the car was probably drivable, but the driver was DUI, so he had to tow it to the impound lot. Now warm, I could even muster a bit of humor; “Someone who’s having a worse Christmas Eve than I am.” I said. I asked Chris if he’d mind if I stepped out to use the pay phone and call home. This time my wife was home. Now, will it be possible to not let the secret out?

“Hi. I’m still having a bit of , umm, delay . Adventure. But there’s progress and I should be home in a little while.”

“…ohhh-kaaaaay…”

“Ummm, is Tom home upstairs?”

“…yea, I think so.”

“Could you ask him if he might be around a little later? I might need some help.”

“…ohhhh-kaaaaay….what kind of help?”

“just – umm,  help moving something. OK?”

“….ohhh-kaaaaay…”

Chris had gotten the car hooked up and we were off to the impound lot. Which is not the holiday destination you’d expect it to be.

It was after 7 by the time we got back to ‘my’ truck. Chris just had to hoist it at this point, though, and were on the road relatively quickly. I almost cried….no, I did cry. A little bit. After all this time, to actually be making some progress, some distance, in the direction I wanted to go….it was too much.

After about ten minutes of travel, the radio squawked. I looked up, startled, Chris looked at me and answered – another MPD call. Chris was apologetic, but duty called first and we dropped the crippled truck in a closed mall’s parking lot. It looked abandoned, sitting alone in the middle of the paving under a single light, no other vehicle around it. I worried, briefly, about someone burglarizing it. But what would they do with a piano? As we turned the corner, I wasn’t sure I cared.

THE BIG ROLL
This accident was a good deal less significant than the previous, and Chris just had to clear the street. Another tow truck was coming for the vehicle. So amazingly enough, we were back on the road toward my abandoned truck within half an hour or so. It was 8:30.

Again, Chris hoisted the U-Haul truck, and we turned out onto the highway. Chris was conciliatory at this point, and he vowed that if he received another call, he would make sure he dropped me off before answering it. I wasn’t terribly concerned at this point; I was warm.

He didn’t get another call, though, and just after 9 PM on Christmas Eve, we pulled up in front of our duplex. Turns out I didn’t need Tom from upstairs to help us move the piano. Chris was a large guy, and being sympathetic to the effort it took for me to get this far, helped me unload the piano and get it in our apartment.

My wife, of course, loved the piano and still does; it took several drinks to tell the story and still is a holiday favorite.  But I always find myself thinking to what it must have looked like to my wife, keeping a watch for me to come home through our front windows.  Eventually, the tow truck turned the corner, with it’s full array of running and flashing lights, and the lights of the U-Haul truck also lit up.  I have no idea what this 40-plus feet of contraption looked like, coming to a stop in front of our apartment.  Normally, it would be the results of some large, appalling accident.  But for this one year, at least, it looked like Christmas.
Epilogue:  THE STING
Chris helped me move the instrument into our apartment, and I insisted on tipping him all the cash I had left. He had performed above and beyond the call of duty. He asked whether I wanted him to drop the truck.“I never want to lay eyes on that vehicle again. If I see it out there tomorrow morning, I’ll probably set it on fire; so you could leave it at the U-Haul store, their repair lot, or push it into the lake, makes no difference to me.” He said he’d drop it at their repair lot.On the first business day after the holiday, I received a phone call from my favorite truck rental company.“Sir, we have you on record as renting a truck from us two days ago.””Uh-huh.”“Sir, we need to know where the truck is.”

Oh, let’s close the curtain on that scene; and you can just fill in the blanks for the rest of THAT conversation.

To all my imaginary digital friends, acquaintances, visitors and general pains in the asses, enjoy your own holidays, love your friends and family, and I hope someone brought you YOUR piano.

I brung this over from Facebook, because it became apparent that I would go long on this.

http://web.musicaficionado.com/main.html#!/article/The_Classic_Rock_Band_Current_Lineup_Scorecard_by_craigrosen?campaign=fbbandscpc

This is an interesting digression. Because, as we all get older, the people in the bands we love tend to die. Now, loss of Kurt Cobain obviously meant Nirvana was no more, as he was singer and principal songwriter. But for a band like the Mekons, every song is credited to Mekons and they are legendary for mixing and matching band members not only over time, but over a year. (They leave themselves an out, in that all people who have performed with the band are Mekons or Deputy Mekons, forever and anon and, as Jon Langford once said “The only way out of the Mekons is in a box”. Maybe not so funny now that people are actually taking that exit…)

But here’s where it gets to the nub for me. Because, you know, before you knew the band they changed members. Pretty regularly. It is, in fact, very rare that bands maintain any kind of band roster, even after they get a recording contract. For instance, many people will not know that Steve Perry was not an original member of Journey.

Also, as far as I am concerned, kicking Dennis DeYoung out of Styx was simply a reasonable use of a fortuitous occurrence to being able to play on stage without wearing robot costumes EVER AGAIN….

The examples are Numerous.  The Who went on without Keith Moon, but some would say they were never the same.  I have personally seen Springsteen with and without the Big Man, and the show without was better (although not because of the change, admittedly).  REM soldiered on without Bill Berry, but the spark seemed missing.  Pink Floyd are a completely singular case, as they seem to need to discard primary members on a regular basis…

Elvis Costello and ELO had a singular driving personality, but they benefitted from band consistency, but it did not turn out to be crucial  Red Hot Chili Peppers had to deal with rotating drug use/ guitarist flaking, but they seemed to go on just fine; the time I saw them was post-Hillel and they were pretty fucking awesome.  The Pretenders stopped pretending and just have a band backing up Chrissie at this point.

The English Beat are one of the worst, with Dave Wakeling leading a band of much younger people through the songs he wrote and sang when he was much younger.  But you know what?  The songs are the same….

And that, to me is where the dividing line happens. When the band has new members, do they move on and try to move into new music, or is it a simple desire to recapture past glory and serve the nostalgic impulses that people will pay money for?  Because, like I said, bands change members all the time while they are building audience and writing material.  So, after they get famous, what is wrong with them continuing to do so?  Except, of course, for the fact than no one comes out to their shows to hear new music.  Mick Jagger once said in an interview that “No one wants to hear your new songs”.  To which, David Bowie SHOULD have replied “Well, maybe they don’t want to hear YOUR new songs”…

A long-lived band has that tough row to hoe.  I can see how it is much easier to just go into the nostalgia circuit (hell, I just went to see X play from their first four albums.  I saw Matthew Sweet do Girlfriend.  I am Guilty).

So I am going to talk about two bands I am most familiar with and you know who I am going to say. Blue Oyster Cult and Mekons.  Come on, you knew where this was going.

Blue Oyster Cult was existing in a couple of different incarnation in the late 60s and early 70s, mainly revolving around Buck Dharma and the Bouchard brothers. Their early stuff was more psychedelia filtered through garage rock; but adding Menacing presence (although oddly short) Eric Bloom and sharing songwriting with Sandy Pearlman took them in a darker tone.  Yes, they spent the 70s with a single lineup.  But when band members started dying, Bloom and Buck kept on, tapping some great musicians and continuing to record albums resulting in great songs that you never heard like “Dance On Stilts” and “Harvest Moon” which should have been hits.

Look, here is a timeline of band members:

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That is what every band’s life looks like.

At this point I will not even get into the Mekons band life, which is twisted even by that standard.  So here’s what I have to say.

I really respect bands who continue to work past their supposed “high point” by working hard and writing new music (Hello, Cheap Trick!”)  and I am the guy out there cheering for your new songs, because new music is the fuel I use to keep moving….

But there are bands that helped make us the people we are today, and sometimes the best you can do is to see them in some weird modern incarnation.  I mean, for me, seeing the Beach Boys without Brian Wilson would be meaningless, but many people like it.  Of course, none of them want to hear any new songs, but want to hear a greatest hits compilation .  This is where I should badmouth them, but I saw the Police reunion tour (and Elvis Costello, opening, with vital new music, was SO MUCH BETTER but that is me).

I have seen Styx several times, and I think they are better without Dennis DeYoung.  I saw Blue Oyster Cult in various levels of original members, and with one notable exception, they were always great. I have never seen Cheap Trick in a any way not be fantastic. But there are tribute bands, that are working the circuit to compensate for bands that no longer perform.  I have been a great fan of Chicago’s Think Floyd, who I have seen prefer an entire Wall show.  Toronto’s Musical Box performs full theatrical performances of Genesis, true to their performances in the 70s including costumes. I have seen them do Lamb Lies Down on Broadway three times.

Sometimes bands pull it together for a cash-in.  The Violent Femmes are way guilty of this (although once they did it in a Tsunami benefit; for which we have a signed band-aid poster).

Because here: it’s about the music.  Its about what it means to you.  The music happened, once upon a time.  Sometimes, people perform it for you.  Some of them may have been part of the original band, some may have not.  If you love classical music, no one involved is still alive… But enjoy it or not, based on the skill of the musicians involved….and then, at the end, say wasn’t that the best?

With that offhand comment by Jon Langford, the Mekons had a mission statement, and proceeded to act it out.  Because of course they did.

At this point, they not only are perfectly willing to completely throw any conceptions about music, songwriting, and performance away, they have earned the right to do so.  If you have hung out here for any amount of time, you may have absorbed some of their background; art-school punks who not only COULDN’T play their instruments (actually, Gang of Four’s instruments, but that’s neither here nor there) but they REFUSED to.  And they’ve been unceremoniously dropped by more record labels than you have parents.  But they still keep on; and as was said in Joe Angio’s stellar doc “Revenge Of The Mekons” it may be argued, with little disagreement, that here and now, nearly 40 years on, they are making the most vital and important music of their career….

It has been a really good time to be a Mekons fan.  Langford has been as prolific as ever, solo and with the Wacos.  The Mekons released a wonderful collaboration with the amazing Robbie Fulks (Jura), recorded in a remote Scottish island.  There was a tour that came to Mineral Point Wisconsin, which brought me back from the dead. The afore-mentioned documentary, which had great reviews and had TWO showings (with band members for Q&A!) at the MKE Film Festival (yes, I went to both!)

I have said several times, and I expect I will again; that I deeply regret not being able to attend this event, held at a small art place in Brooklyn; Jalopy (BBBB was SINGULARLY unhelpful in getting me a ticket NOT THAT I AM ANGRY).  75 Mekon fans and the band with a single mic input recording all-new music and the audience was the on-hand Feral Choir.  I mean, I am as feral as anyone!

And, being the Mekons, they also did a book and full-length video.  Because, again, why not and they have earned the right to do whatever the fuck they want.

The video is by Barry Mills, who has worked with them on several projects.  I saw his work when Langford and Timms brought The Executioner’s Last Songs to Alverno Theater.  This is, essentially a full album rock video; last done by REM for their second album.

The book is filled with prose and poetry, lyrics and art and free-association diatribes.  It will be best read while drunk.  Or maybe sober.  Or maybe while stoned.  Out loud?  On the beach at midnight, maybe. In any case, like the music that is not easy-listening, this is hardly easy-reading. As a friend, Boocock, says, this will take much reading and listening to digest.

The music is some of the best I’ve heard from them.  it is simple and straightforward, and the Feral Choir is a great addition (although maybe lacking for zombies).  I hear some echoes from the electro album, Me, in some of the drum-n-bass lines and some of the guitar work.

It is deceptively simple, but the references are thick and fast, not only to their own prior work, but the whole recorded history of music. There are even parts that sound like their first two albums.

In the book, one writer used the phrase “shambolic precision” and that is a perfect distillation of the Mekons.  You watch them play, listen to them, and you don’t know whether they know what they are doing or whether they are just getting lucky. It always seems to be just this side of going off the rails, and that is what makes it so engaging when it turns into anthemic rage or a lovely dirge.

I know that this will do little for most of you, but here is a part of the video, for a song called “Fear and Beer (hymn for Brexit)”  featuring normal violin playing Suzie Honeyperson on piano:

 

To me, this album has really built on and taken the best from their last four or five albums (which were mostly really good, with one stellar).  It is deceptively simple, but keeps surprising you.  It has a wide variety, but the enforced order of the recording process keeps a common thread.  It may be noted that the contributions of Steve Goulding and Lu Edmonds may help to keep it on the rails more often than not. But  It also sounds like they were having a helluva time, playing in front of a bunch of friends and fans.  And let me tell you, watching the Mekons play when they are having a good time is a special thing indeed.

It’s worth mentioning that the first time I saw the Mekons, they were on their first major label tour, and they were having a blast.  The next time, I brought Wife Sublime, and they had just been dropped by the label, in the middle of America.  They were decidedly NOT having a great time.  We left.

It is very odd, when I think about it; why this band has come to mean so much to me.  You may also be perplexed and you are allowed to be.   They are, yes inconsistent. Although they came out of the first flush of British punk, they moved on from that long ago.  Although they pioneered the ‘alt-country’ genre, they do not play the American version of it like Wilco or Old 97s (both of whom I love).  They WILL play a song you hate just to get a reaction.

However, they are perfectly happy to drink with you before and after a show, and they have absolutely no pretensions of being ‘rockstars’.  They are musicians and artists who respect that you have paid money for their work, and they kind of love you for that.

But I think the basic reason I love their work so much is that they are unwilling to repeat themselves; they have no interest in doing similar things, over and over but rather want to explore, to find the things that interest them and where that takes them. This extends to all of their creative artistic endeavors, art writing whatever.  They are not content to sit still.  If you look at the difference between “Mekons Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “Curse Of The Mekons” ; although the band thought they were delivering what the record label wanted, it was different enough that the second record was never released and the band was dropped mid-tour (see above).

They have said that they only get together when they feel like there’s a reason; memorably, they had an introspective, acoustic album called Natural that happened when a mutual friend died, and they were all in one location for the funeral proceedings.

Everything they have ever published has been credited to “Mekons”, even though there have been like 300 Mekons and Jon Langford has said “the only way out of the band is in a box” and since a couple have died, that is not so funny…

I ramble, on I ramble, like Brian Jones I ramble, and I don’t know where I am going or where I should be going.  I have tried to grapple with my affection for these art-school dropout weirdos, and am not sure I have gotten any closer.  But I will say that after three listens and the video, that I think this album is one of my favorites.

The Mekons started in the late 70s.  I saw them first in the mid-80s.  The album “Rock ‘n’ Roll” catapulted to my favorite list and yes, i put it on top of London Calling.  And since then, as weird and off-kilter they have been (or maybe because of it?) they have remained there. To me, they never disappoint, and I think that is mainly because they never bother do work that disappoints themselves…

 

M. Ward has not played in Milwaukee since 2008.  Since then, we had much discussion on the bloggerhood, especially when Pinko of the California (at the time) Punkos turned me onto this song:

 

Man I love that song.  Which I find especially lovely because of it’s unusual structure, recursive lyrics, and extended coda.

So when we saw that he would be playing at the gorgeous and fine Pabst Theatre, I got tickets of course I did.

There were two very fine opening bands, a poppish group featuring Jenny Lewis called Nice as Fuck, who wandered down the aisle to their stage in front of the stage to the JEM! theme song, and they performed a great song called “Put Your Guns Away” and the crowd responded enthusiastically, in this post-Orlando week.

Because, boys did we need to have some music.  Last Sunday, after reading the news, we went to Locust Street Days to see The Mosleys and the Whiskeybelles, local awesome musics.  It was a good tonic, but reading the way the NRA, the Republicans, and Donald Trump responded took more.  I mean, after the retching.

I am not sure about the actual name of the second band.  The Pabst listing is:  “Erika Forster from Au Revoir Simone & The Like’s Tennessee Thomas” but I think the band has an actual name, although I did not catch it.  But Ms. Forster alternated between very quiet introspective folk songs, country ballads, and full-on guitar squall freakout worthy of Sonic Youth.  Sometimes in a single goddam song…talk about being  right the hell in my wheelhouse…

So.  Given those songs up above, and especially, M. Ward’s new album More Rain, I was not sure about what the show would sound like.  I thought it might be a very quiet, folky, jazzy night and tell me if you wouldn’t think the same thing.

But M.Ward hit the stage with an instrumental, that got very noisy halfway through. He had Scott McCaughey of the Young Fresh Fellows, the Minus Five, Robyn Hitchcock and REM on bass. I missed the name of the second guitarist, but Ward’s Gibson was front and center and really loud.

He played a lot of really great songs, a couple of covers, a Monsters of Folk tune, and that Chinese Translation song up above….and they were all a fuck of a lot louder than on those albums, which I now consider to be overproduced.  And the instrumental outdo on that song got WAY longer and WAY louder than  on the album , and it made this zombie happy…

M. Ward is a very under-rated guitarist, not the least for being able to tell when to lay back.  But in the live venue, he doesn’t do that, mostly.  Also, I love his songwriting, because it borrows from rock and R&B from everywhere, and puts it together in unconventional ways, with no choruses, or refrains that occur in weird places.  Again, right in my wheelhouse.

He came back a couple of times for encores, and every one of the bands acknowledged the beauty of the historic venue they were playing, and the crowd was super enthusiastic for all of them.  It was a great end to week following a tragedy, and I think the artists believed it and did what they could, which is often just what we need and it is what we kind of need from our artists.  And, in some ways, it was just what we needed.   And My!  Didn’t we have a wonderful time!

Pretty good warmup for Summerfest….

Also, thank you Pinko Punko for turning me on to him…..